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TIMORE -- After winning back-to-back College World Series championships the past two seasons with the University of South Carolina, Matt Price and Christian Walker have the opportunity to take on the professional ranks together as members of the Baltimore Orioles.
The O's selected Walker in the fourth round of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday and grabbed Price only three rounds later.
"We're real good friends, and even though we don't live together or anything like that, we're pretty close," Price said. "I called him and congratulated him earlier on being drafted by the Orioles and called him again and talked to him after I got drafted and was like, 'Hey, man, looks like we're going to be teammates again.' And he said, 'Yeah, sounds great.'"
While getting acquainted to a new city and a new life as a professional athlete presents challenges for every draftee, Price and Walker have an advantage.
Instead of making that jump alone, Price and Walker will have the luxury of being alongside a teammate and friend.
"To have somebody there you know helps, and I think me and Walker going together is going to be a good thing," Price said.
In addition to Price and Walker, South Carolina had center fielder Evan Marzilli taken by the D-backs in the eighth round and lefty pitcher Michael Roth selected by the Angels in the ninth round.
Price said the four of them would probably go out to celebrate on Tuesday night, but he added that the focus remains on the weekend's matchup with Oklahoma in the NCAA Super Regional, with a third consecutive trip to the College World Series on the line.
With three years of experience playing against some of the nation's toughest teams in the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA tournament, Price said he believes the South Carolina players are well equipped to make the jump to the pros, as is every college player who deals with a schedule much more rigorous than high school.
"I think that the experience of college and playing all of those games helps with the transition," Price said. "Guys on the team have been to the College World Series the past two years and have had that experience of pitching in pressure situations, hitting in pressure situations."
Those pressure situations are where Price feels he does best. By commanding both of his fastballs and his 82- to 85-mph slider, Price has established himself as one of the NCAA's best closers.
South Carolina coach Ray Tanner made Price a starter for a period of five starts early in the season, but ultimately decided he was more valuable out of the bullpen. Price is 4-4 with 10 saves and a 3.62 ERA in 23 appearances this year after posting a 7-3 mark with 20 saves and a 1.83 ERA in 2011. During the past two seasons, he has notched 153 strikeouts in 126 innings.
"I thrive under pressure," Price said. "I've been in situations with bases loaded, no outs and we're up by one run and I got us out of it."
As far as his projection to the next level, Price said he'd be fine as either a starter or a reliever. Director of scouting Gary Rajsich said Price's role with the Orioles is yet to be determined.
Walker's role, on the other hand, is more clearly defined.
"We drafted him primarily for his on-base skills and his power," Rajsich said. "He's a good college bat that has hit in the middle of a good college team for three years and he can handle it."
Walker is hitting .319 with 11 home runs and 53 RBIs this season. He plays first base with the Gamecocks, and Rajsich said he could even potentially be a catcher for the Orioles, as he was in high school.
Rajsich said the experience Walker and Price have winning back-to-back national titles was not a major factor in their selection, "but as far as evaluating them, it certainly works in their favor.
"They're two guys that have proven success records and two guys that we became aware of that were signable, wanted to go out and play, and we liked them."